Elissar’s Tears is a short story written by Pasithea Chan and shared with The Ugly Writers for the month of November.
Elissar woke from her dream to find the sea’s pearly smiles squared waves dragging behind August’s evening breeze. A voice in the wind blooped: “Go to the Kraken’s head. I am waiting for you”. She rose to her feet and looked around. A purple throated seagull landed on the mustard sands and said: “This way your highness. Your destiny awaits” as it flew ahead turning its head signaling for her to follow it. As the granddaughter of Eirene daughter of Elthemis Goddess of the sea and Shaher the moon, Elissar was used to talking to animals. Mortal by form, demigod by roots, she was her people’s queen and savior.
A while went by as Elissar trekked the long coast following the seagull until they reached Perseus’ arc of victory, the Kraken’s head. By then, the sun was halfway up in the sky and Elissar’s lips were frosty with thirst’s salty breaths. Young and impatient, Elissar waited until the afternoon but the voice never gained a face. That’s when Elissar picked up a Venus’ murex and used its spikes to comb her hair. She noticed the shell was sealed on all ends except for the middle part. It had a hole in it and it reminded her of her mother’s love for listening to the sea when she was away by putting the shell close to her ear after blowing in it. Being a queen with a child’s heart, Elissar blew inside the shell and put it on her ear. And as she listened she heard the sea’s waves smitten with nymph lyres singing of sunken empires. Lost in her sweet memories carried in the shell’s melodies, she was startled as a big wave splashed leaving her flat on her back with her purple tunic sticking on her immaculate figure. A loud a laughter broke her shock and she turned her head to see who dares to laugh at the queen.
“What took you so long cousin? I see you are wearing your sapphire and stramonita tiara. You do realize, you could’ve used it to tell me about your arrival” said the fish-tailed beauty. “Who are you? How dare you make me wait and be late?” sulked Elissar. “My apologies cousin. I am Beroe your maternal cousin daughter of Oceanus and Tethys an oceanid nymph. I have something for you” she replied. “Why should I believe you or take something from you? You could just be any mermaid or sea nymph waiting to kidnap me and take me under” questioned Elissar. Beroe knew Elissar’s suspicions were normal. After all, Phoenicia wasn’t exactly a land free of man and sea creature’s stories of ruse. She swapped her tail and froze the waters into an icy strait. Then clapped her hands like a queen commanding a band to begin entertaining her. Dolphins, monk seals, and narwhals began jumping above the strait. Then she zigzagged the water as she blew over her palm a kiss unto the waves. Sea turtles huddled in heart shaped bales. And as their backs broke surface with the water, Beroe twirled her fingers showing stacks of starfish piled like coins one on top of the other rising and sinking to the sequence of the turtles bobbing in the waves with their backs exposed. Without any words, Beroe raised one eyebrow with her face tilted waiting for Elissar to clap or at least believe her.
The young queen wasn’t very impressed for she knew mermaids and sea nymphs were creatures with magical powers especially in the ocean kingdom. After all, they all are royals from Oceanus, Poseidon, or Elthemis. “I see you have honed your oceanic powers; something I believe I was never born with. Congratulations. But that doesn’t make you an oceanid nymph. We all carry symbols of our lineage either as tiaras or lockets and sometimes elemental or animating powers” said Elissar. Beroe was lost for words and was about to leave the Kraken’s head to set foot on land, when suddenly the sea swerved like a hot soup bombarded with a big cabbage head. The Kraken’s head parted the waters turning them into crystal pearls floating in the air. Out came a megalithic water figure adorned with corals and clusters of caged pearls and kept rising till its head hid the sun. Up close it was a big body of water clustered into a series of typhoons sequenced in chains of storms and tornadoes. Both girls froze in awe and fear. It bent down and picked up Elissar in its palm and placed her next to Beroe. “My children, do not fear for I am here to make clear your kingdoms’ futures for you to steer. I am Elthemis, goddess of the sea and queen consort of Poseidon. Elissar my dear, you are here to receive my fiery ruby roses to plant in your kingdom’s pier. Beroe my dear, you shall reign on the waters of Elissar’s capital to guide its ships from Ugarit to the Trumpet’s tip. Everyday, you two shall make sure that both land and sea inhabitants respect my code and I shall provide peace, bounty, and sovereignty.” said the goddess.
Elissar’s thoughts were racing faster than her heart because she wanted to say her mind only she was hearing Beroe’s. Beroe herself was frozen in fear thinking she had let down her goddess. “Beroe give Elissar her seeds. Elissar give Beroe your crescent” ordered the goddess. Immediately, Beroe took Elissar’s Venus’ comb and combed out five ruby seeds that were as big as a plum, six blue sapphire seeds as big as an olive, and four amber seeds as big as a pea. Then Elissar broke off her ivory and crystal crescent from its golden cage in her tiara and gave it to Beroe as a tear dropped unto it making a dent. “Why the tears cousin? It is our duty to share bounty as royalty” said Beroe. “This was my mother’s tiara and the crescent was my father’s symbol of love embedded in her tiara” said Elissar.
The goddess was unfettered by the girl’s emotion. “Thank you for shedding a tear for your kingdom’s capital my dear. One day, Beroe’s powers will return the favor to shield its pier. Beroe, you are to go to the deepest part of this city’s coast and strike its waters with the crescent in your hand. Strike it until you slice its continental foot into a steep straight slab and smooth it with the waves. Let its salts press its beds deep for vessels to dock and anchor. Then throw it behind you as far as you can and where it lands, you are to stack rocks for Elissar’s nation to build a lighthouse. Once they are done, you shall return the crescent to Elissar to put on top of the lighthouse to beam and reflect Shaher’s nightlight over the waters to guide approaching vessels and marooned sailors. Elissar, my loyal humpback Edomin shall carry you to tripolis, land of the three cities all the way along the Phoenician coast you are standing on till the trumpet’s head. You shall cast your seeds in fourteen locations but the biggest of the five ruby seeds, shall be where Beroe casts your crescent. My nymphs and oceanid nymphs shall take care of the rest of the seeds. Your charge will be to water my largest ruby seed for that pier shall be the beacon that flourishes your kingdom with knowledge and bounty through vessels that bring nations to your country” said the goddess.
Both girls nodded and Beroe dived into the waters to find her spot and release the crescent. Elissar was still on the rock wondering how she could tend to a ruby seed until it grows for seeds need water but stones are not supposed to grow. Elthemis laughed and rested her face on both her palms planting her elbows on the Kraken’s head. “ You are wise my young child. My ruby seed doesn’t need water to grow. My seed is watered with love for country and blood from sacrifice to defend the oppressed and share bounty. You are kind uncorrupted with greed and malice my child. Instill your heart in your progeny and your people to keep my code alive through time and this tide shall bring bounty to you and your people in every stride. Are you ready for your ride or you still have something else you wish to confide? Asked the goddess.
“Thank you my goddess. To perceive is to believe how to achieve. I perceive goodness in ways that build faith in good deeds for my people to believe in what I aim to achieve. I am ready to take my ride for my hands, heart, and mind have nothing to hide not in the past nor present or future” said Elissar. With that said, Edomin broke surface holding still for the young queen to saddle his back. “Put your seeds in his dimples my dear. You will notice they are arranged by size. You will know which seed must be thrown upon which shore when it rises from its dimple’s core. May you never call on Beroe’s favor. Goodbye my child” said the goddess as she sank into the sea and Edomin sank into the water.
Edomin carried Elissar on his back and cast the first big red seed in tripolis, then Jouniyeh, then Berytus, then Sidon, and finally Tyre. Elissar was starting to worry because they had reached the trumpet’s tip but she still had her blue sapphire seeds and her emerald green seeds. She clicked her legs along the sides of the whale again and it sped back up to tripolis making her stop to cast her remaining seeds in Arida, Chekka, Batroun, Byblos, Jiyeh, Ouzai, Khaldeh, Damour, Sarafand, and Trumpet’s tip coasts. On her way back from the Trumpet’s tip Edomin, hopped over the waves as if they were hoops and as if he were doing a victory dance. Suddenly, Edomin stopped in front of a snow white chiseled set of rocks that looked like a cracked coconut shell glistening with water under the sun. Astonished by the scenery, Elissar called out to Beroe using her Venus’ shell by blowing air into it.
“You are fast cousin. I thought it would take you one moon to complete your charge you being mortal and all” said Beroe. “Why did you carve out a big chunk of my capital’s head? You’ve widen its hollowed part into a flat wide basin. It’s head no longer is that much into the water and the sea waves now strike its inlet dragging much of its prized amber and mustard sands back to the sea” asked Elissar with a broken heart.
“Elissar, do you know why your capital is called Berytus?” asked Beroe
“No. When I was born, my mother told me that it was called Beirut but never explained why. Why are you answering my question with another question Beroe? You and I are supposed to be allies and family members” said Elissar in a stern tone.
“Elissar, Berytus is named after me. I am Beroe Poseidon’s bride and I am this city’s lord protector. When Poseidon won my hand over Dionysus, he swore an oath to protect this city from earthquakes and huge waves that could erase it. As for Dionysus who lost the battle for my hand, he promised to keep the city bountiful with fruits of four seasons all year long. You may be the mortal queen reigning over these lands and its peoples but I am its protector and guardian. My goddess asked that the inlet be made a wide mouthed cove so that your pier will grow as you water your seed to bring forth bounties and peoples from far away lands. So you see, I know what you don’t and I love in ways you don’t. I too water the seed from the sea as you can see” said Beroe.
Elissar lowered her eyes and was about to shed a tear when Beroe shed her tail into a magnificent metallic ruffled dress and fixed Shaher’s crescent on Elissar’s sapphire crown. “There you go my sweet heart. There shall be no more tears unless you want your capital to go beneath the sea. For your right eye sheds tears of protection for those oppressed and your left sheds tears for destruction of those who oppress” said Beroe. With that, Elissar smiled and embraced Beroe caressing her back with her wet palms. Beroe’s back relaxed and her tail formed swerving white foam in the waters that changed some parts of the piers where Elissar cast her seeds from mustard sands to white sands.
Years went by since the two met and planted the seeds without them ever meeting again. Until one day, a wintering blue hoopoe came to Elissar and said: “My queen, the sea bloops again but you can’t hear it can you?”
“How are you my old friend? Yes I can’t seem to hear it. Perhaps it is because I am old now and perhaps my hearing has weakened. Tell me, is it our goddess or my cousin Beroe?” asked the queen.
“No your majesty. It is the lost bodies of your people bobbing in the fiery sea. They call for you to call on Beroe to release your tear to bring forth mercy for this nation. Greed’s fire has eaten away your pier and its growing into a maddening magnitude that will decimate your people and your city within seconds” said the bird in fear.
“What fire? What bodies? Speak bird. I command you. I only live to serve and protect my people. I am the soul of the Cedars. I am the embodiment of Phoenicia. How I can be when I can’t do what’s expected of me?” said the queen in a shaky voice.
“My queen, the sea bloops but has not blooped for blood has not turned into a flood. Time will thud and greed will spill blood like splattered mud. It won’t be on your time. You are mortal not immortal in flesh but perhaps you can be immortal in spirit and protection for the times to come. Tonight, I shall build my nest around solidarity’s lapis lazuli and kindness’ fairuz to warm sacrifice’s eggs in hope they bring forth the rise of the phoenix free of greed and enslaved mentality. Come and shed your left eye’s tear to burn greed with fear and bring hope right here” said the bird.
“Wait my friend. I wish to summon Beroe. We are allies after all. I would like to have my tear back for I would wish to protect my people before I release my wrath on the oppressors and the progeny of greed and destruction” said the queen.
“Very well my queen. Make haste for the sun is about to kiss the dunes and Shaher is about to hide behind the clouds. I will call upon my people to spread their wings for you to walk on as you go into the water for Beroe has been in a long slumber knowing that justice walks among the people as one of its own.” said the bird.
The bird and his fellows carried feeble Elissar halfway past the Kraken’s head as she blew once more into her Venus’ comb. Out came out Beroe with now silver locks and wrinkly skin.
“We meet again my cousin. Is it time?” asked the aged oceanid nymph.
“I am not sure but I prefer to have it at hand. Hand it over Beroe” asked Elissar.
“ Elissar, Elthemis’ instructions said only use the tear in fiery destruction from greed or oppression to protect the innocent from certain death or destruction. I see none. I am afraid I can not honor your request” said Beroe.
“Beroe, it is mine. My people will be facing eminent danger years after am gone and I won’t be there to ask you to give it back for my people to shelter within” said Elissar.
“Well, my cousin. I think there is a way wherein we can do both: your request and the goddess’ command. Can your bird take me on their wings to face the western sierra?” asked Beroe.
Elissar turned to the bird as if to translate but the bird turned to Beroe and answered: “Your highness, protector of Berytus and ally of our queen Elissar, I can not do this on my own but I have an idea. I will call upon the partridges of the western sierra to join me and the seagulls of the coast from Tripolis, Berytus, Sidon, Tyre, and the Trumpet’s tip. Together we can put you on a carpet from red anemones and fly you to the sierra. But how can I summon them before sunset before I build my nest in order for my prophecy to be fulfilled?” asked the wise hoopoe.
All three were silent when suddenly the Kraken’s head trembled and opened its lips and said: “Fear not my allies. I have stood guardian over these coasts for thousands of years. My sentinels may be gentle and small but they are my messengers across the world. My pigeons have spread the word. Wait and you shall see. My word is never my command.”. With that said, the rock closed its lips and returned to its slumber again. Within moments, the pigeons arrived with the blue and cream collared seagulls and swarms of partridges that swooped down spreading a red anemone carpet. Beroe stroke the water with her tail causing an earthquake that was felt in the sea and across the land up until the sierra. Then she climbed unto the anemone carpet and moved her hands like a puppeteer pulling the sierra apart dividing it into two sierras raising the one facing her to tower over the coast. She raised them so high that their tips touched the clouds condensing them into heavy showers that swished with wind pushing the rain down Berytus all the way to the Trumpet’s tip.
The birds returned the oceanid nymph to the shore who turned to Elissar: “Any high pressure or heat on this coast, these mountains shall condense them into rain enough to put out fires. Should winds run through the coast, this cove shall suck it in away from Berytus’ head. That should save your city from greed and invasion’s fire keeping your people safe my cousin. Until then, the hoopoes, partridges, and the seagulls will report to the pigeons any fires so they can have the Kraken’s head summon me to release your tear”.
“Very well my queens, I shall build my nest and leave you a map Elissar. Only the one who builds this city shall have the key to read this map and summon Beroe to release justice’s tear to avenge and hang the greedy and the oppressor”. Said the Hoopoe
Thousands of years went by and Phoenicia disappeared. Now the cedars’ lands have a new name and its capital is Beirut. On August 4, 2020, a major explosion blew away Beirut’s port decimating the place and its people leaving them between 157 dead and 5000+ wounded and more than 300000 displaced. That day, the pigeons were told by the seagulls not the hoopoes or the partridges that perished to tell the Kraken to summon Beroe to release Elissar’s tear. Luckily, Beroe released Elissar’s tear, pushing the winds away from the pier preventing the fire from completely erasing Beirut. Now, the people wait for the seagulls to dig up the hoopoes’ nest and find solidarity’s lapis lazuli and kindness’ fairuz to warm sacrifice’s eggs in hope they bring forth the rise of the phoenix free of greed and enslaved mentality.
Today, we wait for the sea to bloop: “Beroe, come and fulfill your promise. Bring justice. We have found the seeker of the key. We want to hang the greedy and the oppressor. We have erected the guillotines.
This short story is a tribute to Lebanon, my country and the Lebanese People, my people. On August 4, 2020, a horrible explosion in Beirut’s port killed many people, wounded more, and displaced 300K. Today the people are asking that the world prays for Lebanon and that an international tribunal bring justice for Lebanon.
The story is written in symbolism laced with philosophy.
Elissar is the embodiment of peace and sacrifice in the name of love for people and country. She is the phoenix that summarizes the Lebanese Republic in modern times in a time when leaders are worshiped for influence and money via oppression.
Berytus is Beirut and Beroe is Beirut’s symbol of justice, reform, and accountability.
The precious stones in the hoopoe’s nest are the people’s solidarity in their strife to survive against all odds and keep pushing for rebuilding this country.
Below are representations of Elissar, Beroe, and the Krakan’s arch aka Raouche Rock today which is still a major symbol and attraction of the capital.
Thank you for reading my work. I hope you find it in your heart to spread the word. Lebanon needs your support especially in bringing awareness to their tragedy and their struggle for democracy and accountability.
Please support Pasithea Chan by reading her previous posts here. You can also find her brand of poetry on Facebook.